Catherine’s post yesterday, “Helping Another Writer = Good Karma,” was a timely one for me, and I wanted to expand on her thoughts—because it’s even better for your freelance business if you expand your freelance network beyond just referrals for other writers.
Some examples from the past week:
I received a referral from a client for a PR project that was really outside my expertise, so I sub-referred it to someone I know who’s capable of pulling it off.
I referred a long-time graphic designer colleague, who’s recently gone freelance, to a client who needs some high-end talent.
And while editing a white paper for another client, it occurred to me that another client (a professional speaker and author) might find the content useful for her audiences, so I introduced and connected them, too.
None of these will result in direct business for me, and I don’t know for sure if it will mean additional business for any of the people I’ve introduced to each other. And as Catherine pointed out, my motives for doing it were a blend of unselfish and selfish. Sure, I might help some folks generate some additional revenue. Sure, if my matchmaking works, I’m going to cultivate some good karma with clients and potential clients as well as fellow freelancers…and maybe some additional business or referrals will come back my way down the road. There’s nothing wrong with that, eh?
From a bigger-picture perspective, I think we often fool ourselves into thinking that participation in social media means we’re being social. It doesn’t. Real business means picking up the phone or sending a thoughtful email, personally connecting partners, clients, colleagues or friends in ways that improve their own networks and results.
In the comments, share your matchmaking tips or anecdotes. What do you do to expand your freelance network and influence?
Throughout my life, it seems, I’ve had to wait for technology to catch up with my dreams. As a child, I grew up in family that valued both academic achievement and creative expression, and in high school, I excelled in the clerical arts. So, as a young woman, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in both English and Art.
I loved ad layout and graphic design, but had little patience for the technical precision it required. In those days, graphic artists were still using Letraset dry transfer font sheets to set type, and wax-adhered paste-ups for publication layout. And although my veins practically course with printer’s ink, and I had always dabbled in creative writing, I hadn’t a clue how to break into the world of publishing…Unless I count my first real job, working as a classified ad typist at our local newspaper, a short-lived summer job that never segued into the editorial department.
Upon graduating college, with zero prospects in journalism or graphic design, I earned my daily bread waiting tables and tending bar. I was good at both, and although I loved the culinary world (and still do), I never gave up on the notion of someday working in the publishing industry.
Fast-forward twelve years, to the day I got my first computer. By then, I was the mother of a precocious toddler, and my first attempts at publishing were two parenting books: one called Potty Pals, a children’s bookfor potty training; and another one for parents titled The Reading Seed, outlining how I taught my son to read at age two. But even with the advent of the home PC for “desktop publishing” (as it was called back then), neither of my books took flight. So I shelved them both and went back to the restaurant business.
Fast-forward another nine years, to the day I submitted my first story to a publisher of web-based travel articles. Not only did he publish the story I submitted, he assigned me to write four more articles, which eventually became the foundation for my first published book, Ganbatte Means Go for It…Or How to Become an English Teacher in Japan.
There was no stopping me now. I had finally cracked the publishing nut, and I wanted more. So the first thing I did was streamline my computer (now a laptop model) for optimal productivity. I set up my Internet browser to maximize my research time, customized all my publishing and bookkeeping software, and organized my documents for easy access. In less than a year, I had transformed myself and my laptop into a lean, mean, freelancing machine, and had written an e-book to show other freelance writers how I did it.
The next thing I did was quit my day job, and…I’ve never looked back. Ten years and six laptops later, my gaze is firmly fixed on the future of publishing: E-Books! In the past few months, with the help of that precocious toddler who has since grown into a brilliant young man with a degree in computer science, I’ve been hard at work learning to design and code e-books for Amazon Kindle. I’m now offering my e-book design services to independent authors, and have more than a dozen of my own titles in circulation, including Turn Your PC Into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine.
With machete as metaphor in the jungle of the publishing industry, this lively and colorful e-book (for which I also designed the layout) teaches aspiring writers to streamline their computers for productivity, and shows how to maximize the potential for publishing success. Each page is packed with my best tips and secrets as a successful freelance writer and published author: from customizing software and setting up time-saving shortcuts, to finding sources for freelance writing jobs. And of course…Freelance Zone is mentioned on my short list of the best resources for freelance writers!
About the Author: With her lifelong love of Japan, its people, and its culture, Celeste Heiter believes that she may have been Japanese in a previous incarnation. In this lifetime however, Celeste was born in Mobile, Alabama, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art and English from the University of South Alabama.
Inspired by a lifelong dream to visit the Great Buddha at Kamakura, she moved to Tokyo in 1988, where she spent two years teaching English conversation. Celeste now makes her home in California’s beautiful Napa Valley, with the most treasured souvenir of her life in Japan: her son Will, who was born during her stay in Tokyo. Her books are inspired by her travels, and by her culinary creativity as a cookbook author, food writer, and photographer.
Celeste is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites cookbook series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children (PottyPalsBook.com). She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press (ThingsAsianPress.com); and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema.com.
I’ve always believed that every freelance writer needs a graphic design partner — or better yet, a few of them that specialize in print, digital, and different industries. Today was Exhibit A: I was enjoying lunch on a restaurant patio with a former co-worker from my in-house custom publishing days when my phone buzzed in my pocket. I ignored it. It buzzed again a few minutes later, and I pulled it out and took a surreptitious glance at who was calling.
It was one of my top-tier clients. As soon as my friend and I shook hands and parted ways, I dialed up voicemail, and the panic in my client’s voice was clear: Her graphic designer bailed on her at the last minute, leaving her with an unfinished newsletter that absolutely, positively needed to get printed before she hopped on a plane for a trip. Eight pages, 12-hour turnaround.
Luckily, there were a few specific candidates that came to mind, and I called her and said I’d do what I could. My first local possibility was already swamped, but I pitched her on the basis that: 1) The client is super easy to work with, 2) it’s a fast-growing company and would likely lead to additional, high-paying jobs, and 3) if she heard the detailed specs and didn’t think she could do it, no harm done.
Honestly, though, I knew she was going to pull it off…because she always does. In short, my tight relationship with an exceptional graphic designer accomplished two key things:
Instant hot referral to a lucrative freelance contact going forward.
Made me look like a hero to an important client.
It only took one quick phone call, but the reality is that the relationship has been more than a decade in the making—reliability, trust, and responsiveness don’t get built overnight. If you don’t already have go-to people in complimentary freelance disciplines…what are you waiting for?
In the comments: Writers, has a graphic designer ever bailed you out? Graphic designers, has a freelance writer ever improved an important client relationship?
Who is your best friend? As a freelancer, maybe you will say it’s your faithful dog or purring cat because they’re the only creatures that keep you company when you’re working late at night. But if you don’t have one or more graphic designers among your best friends, you might want to make that a priority for 2010.
I wrote my first corporate annual report in 1988. I’ve worked on at least one every year since then, and in the years I was freelancing, I sometimes worked on three or four per year. So I’m guessing I’ve written about 35 annual reports, plus countless capability brochures and other types of collateral. (If I was smart, I would have saved a few copies of each one so I could wallpaper my den.) Along the way, I have worked with many graphic designers – and when I made the move from corporate employee to freelancer, those graphic designers were my best friends because they were a steady source of referrals.
Graphic design firms by definition focus on design, so they seldom have copywriters on staff. But graphic designers are constantly in touch with clients who need content in addition to design. Those clients often asked the graphic designer to recommend freelance writers or editors. So if you haven’t already done so, reach out to a few graphic designers and make yourself available as a resource to them and their clients. The design firm may put you directly in touch with a client, or they may prefer to subcontract work to you. Either way, it’s a great situation: the graphic design firm provides its clients with a broader range of services, you get more freelance work – and you make friends with some very creative people!
Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher and online community for writers and other artists.
Chicago-based content writing, editing, and social media. 1579 N. Milwaukee #220, Chicago Illinois 60622